Review: DeadCore – An FPS Precision Speed Runner

Review: DeadCore – An FPS Precision Speed Runner
3.5

Platforms:

Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Steam

Game Name:

DeadCore

Publisher(s):

BANDAI NAMCO Games Europe

Developer(s):

5 Bits Games

Genre(s):

Action, FPS, Puzzle, Platformer

Release Date:

October 17th, 2014

DeadCore – What We Think:

Despite the fact that I’ve been playing video games since elementary school, I’ve never spent much time playing FPS games on the PC (or at least, not since Wolfenstein 3D). I can navigate through a world with a mouse and keyboard, but I’ve always felt much more comfortable with a trusty set of thumb sticks.

That presents a conundrum when reviewing a game like DeadCore. I don’t much care for first person platforming in general, and that’s doubly true given my clumsiness with PC controls. DeadCore – a particularly difficult entry in the genre – left me flailing right from the beginning.

Core Values

To put it as humbly as possible, I do not possess the requisite skill to play DeadCore as the developers intended. Even at its most forgiving, the first-person perspective and the harsh time limits ensure that DeadCore will deter all but the most devout members of the PC tribe.

http://indiegamereviewer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/DeadCore-screenshot-cloud-city.jpg

That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game, but it does make for a niche one. DeadCore is a first-person precision platformer designed for speed runners. The game demands perfection within the first ten minutes. From there it’s not long before the levels start fighting back. You have to be able to shoot distant switches while traveling at high velocities in midair, and if you stop and think about your next move then you’re probably moving too slowly.

Completionist-Core

DeadCore doesn’t have much to offer if you’re not looking for that kind of challenge. The limited story is doled out in collectible logs that you find throughout the world, all of which demand an incredible amount of skill and patience to acquire. What little I saw of the narrative seemed intriguing, but it’s parsed out so thinly and gated so severely that it couldn’t rightly be called a selling point. It doesn’t exist if you’re not a completionist.

DeadCore screenshot - Story

Fortunately, DeadCore is solid if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for. As infuriating as I found the game, it never felt like I was being punished for things beyond my control. The obstacles test skill rather than luck and you’ll always know why you came up short. I just wasn’t good enough, and I don’t mind admitting that.

In fact, if I was a bit better with the controls, DeadCore is the kind of game that I could get into. The levels are tough but fair, and the game takes some greatly appreciated steps that minimize needless frustration. There’s a respawn button that will immediately take you back to the most recent checkpoint. Those checkpoints are blissfully frequent. There’s no fail state, so you can keep trying and trying and trying without ever breaking the flow of gameplay.

Stop and Smell The Roses…At Your Peril

The artwork is also deserving of a mention in that regard. At a glance, the level design is unremarkable, a lot of off black cubes with neon Tron lines running down the middle. But there’s a weird tunnel vision that sets in whenever you accelerate, and it provides a strange sort of clarity that enhances the intended gameplay style. The world feels different once you get up to speed, a neat aesthetic trick that suggests that the rapid gameplay is an organic product of the game world, rather than an artificial contrivance imposed by the developers.

DeadCore screenshot - obelisks

The problem, of course, is that most players won’t get to see the game from that perspective (I only caught glimpses). You essentially have to play without thinking in order to reach that state, running on the kind of muscle memory and reflex that only forms after hundreds of hours of gameplay. If you haven’t yet developed that instinct at the wheel of a PC, then you probably shouldn’t be operating the vehicle.

I don’t have those repetitions, and DeadCore isn’t a great place to practice, even if my runs kept getting better (and they did). I tapped out after spending an hour trying to complete a single fifteen-second sequence, resigned to the knowledge that no checkpoints can make the obstacles between them any easier to overcome. I can’t tell you how DeadCore ends. I can only tell you about the despair that I felt staring up at the next series of seemingly impossible jumps, and how loudly I screamed at my keyboard every time I fell.

I’m Not Dead Yet

However, I can’t knock DeadCore too harshly because there’s nothing especially bad about it. It’s just prohibitively difficult for anyone who doesn’t self-identify as Desktop when asked to choose an ethnicity. It’s worth a look if you like a challenge, but everyone else will be better off running in tamer pastures.

DeadCore – Official Site

Get DeadCore on Steam

Get DeadCore on Desura

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Watch the trailer for DeadCore below:

Eric Weiss

Eric is a Toronto based video game critic and theatre practitioner. He is currently a regular contributor at Dork Shelf, while past creative writing credits include the stage plays The Handy Man Can (2008 Montreal Fringe Festival) and Shredder (2009 McGill Drama Festival) and the video game Apocalypse Later (TOJam 2012). Follow him on Twitter @Harry_Houdini.

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